For many university students, securing a placement year is integral for their degree to heighten the chances of future success. It’s the perfect opportunity to let your skills flourish, test your knowledge, gain invaluable experience and really understand what it’s like to live in the real 9-5 working life.
Before you go on placement, you experience an array of different emotions, ranging from fear of the unknown, excitement, panic and hope. But what is it actually like doing a placement year?
One of the biggest fears for university students is the horrifying idea of waking up before 7am every working day, to not get home till after 5.
Expectation = Impossible, exhausting, demanding, death.
Reality = Give it two weeks, and it becomes second nature.
As your body gets used to the early mornings, you (almost) start to enjoy them. Not everyone is a morning person, but it makes you realise how much you can actually get done in one day, and you will never again take sleep for granted.
Keeping on top of work
The learning curve from university to working life is undeniable. Depending on your degree, your contact hours can vary from 9 hours a week to 40+ hours, but a lot of that time is on your own watch, prescribed as ‘self learning’.
Expectation = Stressed, constantly busy, always in meetings and living off coffee.
Reality = Sometimes true.
Reporting into a manager and team give you the sense of responsibility that university doesn’t, if you don’t effectively and efficiently complete the work then you’re not just letting yourself down, but also your manager, your team and your department.
Work can have busy periods and quiet periods, but that doesn’t mean that you’re either going to be exhausted or bored. When you have lots to do, the key to keeping on top of things is organisation. Google have a fabulous range of programmes to help combat any lack of organisation skills. Google Calendar is perfect for planning events, time schedules and arranging meetings. Google Keep acts as an online to do list, allowing you to tick off completed tasks and archive old notes for safe keeping.
Getting along with colleagues
New job, new boss, new colleagues. It can be daunting, especially if your job requires you to move somewhere new where you don’t know anyone.
Expectation = A boss like Miranda from The Devil Wears Prada.
Reality = Nothing like the movies – apart from maybe a bit like Peep Show.
There might be one or two people you don’t see eye to eye with, but most people will be easy to get along with. You’ll be surprised at how many people you actually end up making friends with, whether that’s your colleagues, your boss, or other placement students. Just make sure to take every opportunity to meet new people across the business, as every connection you get could be beneficial to your future.
Living for the weekend
Getting the right work-life balance is vital when you’re working. You’ll often hear people talk about how they live for the weekend, and can only just make it through the week because of the thought of that sweet sweet friday feeling.
Expectation = Dragging yourself through the week to make it till Friday night.
Reality = Appreciating the weekends and time off.
Work is work for a reason, because it needs to get done. But that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the work you do, often it can be incredibly stimulating, and usually people work in the job they work in because they have a passion it.
Working full time can make the weekend seem like the holy grail, but really it just makes you value your time and gives you incentive to fill them with fabulous activities rather than just staying in bed.
Making a lasting impression
A placement year has so many advantages, it really is your time to shine so take every opportunity you can and spread your wings.
Expectation = Will anyone even know my name?
Reality = Make people know your name.
In a way, having a placement year is almost like a year long interview to help your chances for getting a job at the end of it, but there are never any guarantees. There’s also a chance that you may not want to work for the company at the end of your placement, but making sure you be the best you can be during your year means you can get a shining reference. It is the start of your career; you are building invaluable skills and strengthening your knowledge, so make the most of it and don’t let anybody stomp on your sparkle.